By Diane Rossen Worthington, Tribune Media Services
11:00 AM EST, November 28, 2011
What's a quick bread? By definition it's bread that does not rely upon yeast to rise, but rather uses baking powder or baking soda as the leavening agent. You don't have to let the dough rise or to knead it; just a quick mix of ingredients and pop it in the oven. What you gain in time saved, you give up in light, airy texture. Most quick breads are dense and very moist. Not a bad thing, if you ask me.
Quick breads are usually flavored with fresh or dried fruit, vegetables, cheese, herbs or nuts that give the bread its distinctive flavor. This is also true for muffins. You'll notice that the tops of these breads often crack or split in the middle giving them a rustic character.
Chocolate and pumpkin flavors are combined in this surprising sweet-spiced quick bread. Peet's Coffee and Tea stores serve slices of this bread, along with steaming cups of their famous rich coffee. When I recreated the recipe, I wanted to make sure that the chocolate stood alone in the pumpkin batter. To achieve this effect, I used a skewer to streak melted chocolate through the batter.
This bread is a welcome holiday treat for breakfast, afternoon tea or for dessert with sliced ripe pears. You can make tinier versions of this quick bread in small disposable containers and give them as simple holiday gifts. Just make sure to bake them for about 20 to 25 minutes or until just cooked through.
Since the recipe doubles perfectly, make two loaves. Be sure to bake one loaf for slicing, and stick another in the freezer to for last minute occasions. Pumpkin Chocolate Loaf can also be the cornerstone of an extravagantly rich bread pudding. Follow any chocolate bread pudding recipe; instead of using bread, substitute this spiced pumpkin chocolate bread.
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Quick bread tips
Replace old (more than 6 months) baking powder and baking soda for proper rising.
Don't overmix, or the texture will be tough.
Bake the batter as soon as you have prepared it, as the leavening strength will weaken if it is not exposed to heat promptly.
Test that the bread is done by sticking a wooden skewer in the center; it should come out clean or just a few moist crumbs attached.
Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes and then unmold on a wire rack to finish cooling.
Pumpkin chocolate bread
Ingredients: 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened 11/4 cups sugar 3 eggs 1 cup canned pumpkin 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 4 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into pieces
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Butter and flour a 9 x 5-inch nonstick loaf pan.
3. Combine the flour, baking powder and soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt in a mixing bowl, and stir together.
4. With an electric mixer, beat the butter in a large bowl until softened. Add the sugar and continue beating. Add the eggs and beat until well blended. Add the pumpkin, vanilla and the flour mixture, beating just until well blended.
5. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler on medium-high heat until totally melted, about 5 minutes. Or melt in a glass bowl in the microwave for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, or until completely melted and smooth.
6. Spoon half of the batter into the loaf pan. Drop spoonfuls of half of the chocolate mixture on top of the batter and then swirl the chocolate into the batter with a wooden skewer. Repeat with the remaining batter and chocolate, making sure to swirl the chocolate into the pumpkin well.
7. Bake the loaf for about 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean in the center. Let the loaf cool at least 15 minutes, and then invert onto a wire rack. Serve sliced warm or at room temperature.
Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including "Seriously Simple Holidays," and also a James Beard award-winning radio show host.